Sourdough instructor explains why bread is big right now

Elle Crevits teaches the art of sourdough baking, and she spoke with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning this week about its rising popularity.

The act of breadmaking feeds our sense of resilience, says Elle Crevits

Sourdough is a great project, says Ottawa breadmaker Elle Crevits — all you need is flour, salt and water. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

With most of the city stuck at home, the humble loaf of bread is rising up in kitchens across Ottawa.

Fresh bread has gone from just a pantry staple to a pastime during the COVID-19 pandemic, with bakers proudly posting their creations on Instagram and Twitter.

Elle Crevits is the owner of Elle Chef, where she teaches the art of sourdough baking. She spoke with CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning about the trend on Monday.

Here's the interview, edited for length and clarity.

Why is bread the perfect food for these stressful times?

I think sourdough bread is just one of those things. It's so simple, just three ingredients: flour, water and salt. When we can combine those and create something for ourselves that's so sustaining, we feel a sense of resiliency.

That resiliency is a really important feeling in an uncertain time.

People like to feel that they're self-sufficient. That what's happening around them isn't a real threat to their way of living — they just need to adapt.

Exactly. And it's also part of nurturing ourselves too. Giving ourselves good food and taking care of ourselves and our families during this time.

You teach these sourdough-making classes. What have you been hearing from online participants about why they're getting into it?

A lot of my students who've already taken my classes have said this is such a welcome distraction — having dough sitting on the counter and spending all day fussing over it, instead of COVID-19 stuff.

For a lot of people who already know how to make sourdough, this is just a refresher about making time for it, and finding new recipes and exploring new things to make like bagels, cinnamon buns, scones or banana bread. For new people, it's about feeling a sense of that sustainability.

We're finding that the bread shelves are empty. Flour and yeast are hard to find. Lots of people have flour in their cupboards, so they're pulling it out to use it at this time too.

We've actually heard that Canadian flour mills have altered their productions of whole grains and flour because of a surge in demand. But some people have reported the stores are just sold out of flour, and it's difficult to find yeast. What can people do?

I think a lot of us have stuff in our cupboards that we just haven't used, so it's a good time to pull that out. There's lots of great local producers, like Almanac Grain, that are milling fresh flour.

There's no shame in asking a neighbour, too. There's definitely flour out there and we have to get more creative about how we get it.

How can people get their hands on a starter?

One of the reasons why I love sourdough starters is because it's this thing that's meant to be shared, just like bread is meant to be shared. So if you know somebody who's making sourdough bread perhaps they can leave you some starter at your door in a jar.

You can also get some online. Often people sell dehydrated starters. I do through my website as well.

Starters are easy to get, and once you have one, you can spend time in your home all day baking bread and joining the Instagram revolution.

Also, if you have one in the back of your fridge, it is not dead. Pull it out. Take just a little bit and feed it again — I recommend wheat flour — and it should come back. It's totally possible to revive any starter you think is dead.


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